Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Firmin by Sam Savage

Book CoverReview by Maggie:

If you like the sound of an anthropomorphic rat and who does’nt ???? Read Firmin by Sam Savage.  It is subtitled the story of a metropolitan low life.  Firmin was born in a Scollay Square bookstore in a nest made from a shredded Finnegan’s wake .. who knows what the author is saying about Joyce.  His mother, Flo was a promiscuous tosspot —his twelve siblings would turnout to have similar tendencies.  Firmin was saved from that fate by being number 13 of her twelve teats.  His sibs learned to love the taste of liquor…  that was mostly what they got when they tried to take nourishment from  mum.  By the time Firmin, the runt of the litter,  got his chance for a snack the others were  passed out from the liquor and milk was available. While his siblings were foraging for food at the nearby adult theater, slurping up spilled beer and dropped popcorn, Firmin was exploring his bookstore.  He learned a love of literature by at first ingesting it and then realizing he liked reading lit better than eating it...

Firmin has charm and is funny and sad.  This little novella is delightful and a tale for anyone who loves literature.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Review by Maggie:

This is a book about people that live on a tropical island.  The island is engaged in a civil war so all the men and the teachers have left the island.  Mr Watts is a white man who has chosen to stay on the island.  Mr. Watts is considered eccentric by everyone that encounters him.  He walks about hauling his wife in a cart and wearing a red clown nose.  One day he announces he will take over educating the children.  He begins his teaching by reading to the children every day and the book he uses is Great Expectations by Dickens.

The children have very unpleasant lives and spend each day with the sounds of guns in the distance. They love learning about this Pip character.  Mr. Pip, as Mr. Watts  is now called, has a unique teaching style.  Besides reading from the island’s only book he has the older ladies come in and tell the children stories about what they have learned in life.  It is a way for the ladies to get to know Mr Watts/Pip as some of the islanders are very suspicious of him.
War soon comes much closer than just the sound of gunfire and soon soldiers are swarming the area and killing villagers .  The soldiers believe there is a conspiracy afoot on the island led by Mr. Pip.  The villagers cannot convince the soldiers that he is just a fictional character from a book since they cannot provide the soldiers with the book.  It had been stolen from the schoolhouse and inadvertently destroyed.  Daily survival in this place is the objective. 
This does not sound enticing and when I picked up the book to read I thought I am not going to read this.  However, it was a great read and I used it for a book discussion and it was enjoyed by all and provoked good discussion.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Book CoverI seldom  read courtroom dramas, they seem rather boring and full of legalese.  I like books with few but well developed characters.  I do not know why I read Defending Jacob but am glad I did.  Character development was basic and while we know little about anyone in the book and what we do know does not make the people likeable.   

A teenager is stabbed and killed in an affluent suburb and the only evidence is a thumb print.  Soon the print is traced to the local DA’s son Jacob and he is arrested and put on trial for murder.  The trial proceeds and the author keeps us guessing if the teenager is guilty of murdering his classmate.  While Jacob is socially dysfunctional that does not make him a murderer.  After his arrest the police are convinced they have the right suspect so they do no more investigating.  A bizzare happening and a written confession helps Jacob beat the rap and the family decides to take a celebratory vacation to get away from the town where the whole family has achieved pariah status—They go off to the Caribbean where it would seem all are having a great vacation when a young woman that has befriended Jacob disappears.  No more.  This book has a surprise ending----Good read.

Request Defending Jacob from the Bangor Public Library

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

book jacketGrace Winter is a newlywed and probably a widow.  Grace thought she was going to live a life of privilege; that was her plan and instead she is fighting for a place in a lifeboat.   She was on an ocean liner in 1914 when an explosion blows her world to hell.  Survivors in the boat have to make alliances,  they are crucial and might determine who lives and dies.  Hardie, the only crew member on the lifeboat is at first seen as a savior and the one capable of saving them.  He is able to grab fish from the sea and he puts himself in charge of water rations. The boat is overloaded and people must be sacrificed for the greater good.    As days go on and people are more desperate Hardie is seen as evil and the decision is made to let him go overboard---hard choices must be made.  This is a story that makes one wonder what one would do to survive.  The story is all told from Grace’s perspective and any action takes place in the boat as people fight for their right to live. 

This is an engrossing debut.

Request Lifeboat from the Bangor Public Library

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal

book jacketJudith Blunt is from a broken home.  She decided as a teen to live with her father, a college professor and she moves from Vermont to Nebraska where she meets Willy Blunt.  He is a carpenter in his mid twenties.  When her father thinks maybe she is maybe going to settle with Willy rather than pursue an education he pulls strings and gets her admitted to Stanford. After some violence connected with Willy’s work she decides maybe getting out of town is wise.  She goes off to California abandoning her great love and does not look back until she is a middle aged woman.

She seems to have a good life and a happy marriage but when her daughter rejects the bedroom set that Judith had as a child she decides to rent a storage unit to keep it.    At any rate,  she goes off the rails and decorates the storage unit like her teenage bedroom bringing back teen memories of her lost love Willy.  She also has suspicions that her husband might be having an affair.  Judith hires a detective to find her old beau and buys a throw away cell phone to receive private messages and spends time in her storage unit/bedroom.  Once Willy is found, Judith decides what she needs is to reconnect with Willy.  She makes some arrangements for someone to cover her work and makes excuses to her husband and off she goes to Nebraska to see Willy Blunt and find what he is up to---  obviously not a good idea. She reconnects with Willy and they revert to their teenage selves.   I  will say no more as I am getting into spoiler territory.  The story is told in alternating chapters Judith as a teenager and Judith as an adult.  The characters are well developed and while I enjoyed the read I did not like the people at all.

Request To Be Sung Underwater from the Bangor Public Library

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi

book jacketThis is a graceful novel about an elegant American wife of a British diplomat that is posted to Paris.  It all takes place in a single day when Clare Morehouse, a capable hostess, is having the most important dinner in her husband’s career----her gracious entertaining will determine if her husband gets the coveted assignment to be the ambassador to Dublin.  Her husband thinks this is exactly what  Clare wants since she is Irish American.   Clare is ambivalent about the assignment  because of a youthful passion that had her involved with an IRA member.  She had unwittingly transported both guns and money for the IRA cause.  Clare keeps her cool in her preparations for the perfect dinner---dealing with a cantankerous cook, an ineffective housekeeper, a call from her son’s prep school headmaster telling her he was being suspended and encountering her IRA guy that she thought dead.  Enough already, but as she is waiting for her dinner guests she sees a terrorist on the television that is suspected of an assassination that day.   Clare knows that he is not the assassin since she was giving him directions to a doctor’s office when the assassination took place. Does she contact the police and risk her husband losing his new assignment? 

This sounds melodramatic but it is not.  It is a well written and a delicious read and Clare is a well developed and likeable character.

Request An Unexpected Guest from the Bangor Public Library

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

book jacketIf you read Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick you know that he writes very sinister fiction---Reliable was a debut novel and a tough act to follow.  However, Heading Out to Wonderful is just as compelling and equally dark. 


Charlie Beale arrives in Brownsburg with two suitcases---one full of knives ,the other full of cash.  We do not get any back story to why or how he accumulated the cash.  But he soon gets a job and he is the best butcher ever---so we know why he has the knives.  He soon falls in love with the wife of the richest man in town, Boaty’s wife Sylvan Glass---Sylvan was not her birth name but we are never told that as it would be according to her, unbelievable.  Many questions are never answered:  Where did Charlie come from?  What is his background?  What about family and why did he take a five year old for his meetings with Sylvan?  Charlie also has a problem being contained in a house and prefers sleeping on the ground by his river land. 

In spite of unanswered questions and unreasonable behaviors this is a great read---unputdownable.

Request Heading Out to Wonderful from the Bangor Public Library

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

book jacketGone Girl is a page turner with well developed characters.  The story is told from alternating his/her points of view.   Nick and Amy Dunn are a couple downsized from big New York City jobs and they return to Nick’s down at the heels hometown for a new lease on life. Nick and Amy are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing.  Amy has left behind an extensive diary and clues to her disappearance.  Also, Amy is the child of famous authors, and as the star of  their books, the national media is interested in her disappearance.  As the diary is read and the clues followed, Nick realizes it is all an elaborate hoax and that Amy is setting him up for her murder while everyone else including Amy’s parents are thinking he killed her.  We soon find out that Nick was not the ideal husband and Amy far from a good wife.  Amy is not only a bad wife but a diabolical person.  I hope I have not given away too much.  I do not want to ruin an excellent read for you.  There are no draggy parts and one changes sides from Nick to Amy---as to who was the wronged party. 

This is a great read and a suspense novel a bit different from usual fare-----loved it.

Request Gone Girl from the Bangor Public Library

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore

Review by Jan:

CoverI have posted this review once already on our Not Your Ordinary Book Group blog, so for those of you who follow both blogs please forgive the redundancy.  Our book group lately has been choosing books that lean toward contemporary fiction, like The French Gardener.  This is the May read for our book group.  We do have book group copies available that are not on our catalog, both in eReader and book format.  If you would like a copy, please let us know.  contact us

First I will begin by saying I fell in love with the environment of this story. It's set on an English country estate, with neglected gardens, stone bridge covered streams, and an abandoned cottage complete with a scrapbook filled with secrets. It reads more like contemporary fiction, or women's fiction, rather than a typical romance.

It begins with Miranda Lambert, an ex-Londoner and writer who we soon learn is not entirely happy living in the country as she secretly sobs in her closet over her unused Jimmy Choos. Her husband, a banker, travels from London to spend the weekends with her and their two children. She is a posh socialite more comfortable in the city than the country that she now inhabits. Her children are lonely and unhappy, starving for attention; her son acts out in aggressive ways, torturing the neighbor's poor donkey and biting classmates.

I was drawn to champion this woman as soon as her husband hit the pages. David is arrogant, belittles his wife, and having an affair with her best friend! On his weekends home, he watches golf and ignores his family. Miranda, after a scolding from her husband to "get it together", hires a cook, housekeeper, and a mysterious French gardener. While cleaning out an abandoned cottage on the estate, she discovers a journal written by the previous owner who was lovingly called Shrub by her husband. The journal chronicles Shrub's love affair with her own French gardener that happened thirty years prior.

We soon learn that Shrub's French gardener in the past is also Miranda's French gardener in the present; Jean-Paul is older but still handsome. The gardener returned for Shrub but found a troubled family in her place. In honor of his lost love, Jean-Paul agrees to stay and rebuild the overgrown garden. As the garden comes back to life so does the family who lives amongst its magical surroundings, and as Miranda reads the secret journal readers also journey through a forbidden love story.

This book intertwines two story lines quite nicely. I will say I enjoyed this book despite the heavy influence of infidelity throughout, both in the past and present. Shrub's affair in the past helps Miranda forgive her own husband's infidelity in the present, so while the affairs are distasteful, there are lessons learned. It is a story filled with secret discoveries, forbidden love, and human weakness. The setting is exquisite, a gardener's ultimate dream, and the cast is fun and quirky. The only other spoiler I will give is that I think it wrapped up the French gardener's storyline in a satisfactory way. I enjoyed the journey of Miranda and her family toward happiness and forgiveness, although I wouldn't have minded if she had punished her husband just a tad longer before allowing him back home.

Hope to see you in our library someday soon,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Europa Editions

Europa Editions is a publishing company founded in 2005 and based in New York.  It publishes European authors in translation.  The books are all the same size paperbacks and have publisher’s name and a stork logo on the front cover.  The first translation they published was  Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante  I had read and enjoyed it  The first best seller they had was The Elegance pf the Hedghog by Muriel Barbery but I still took no notice of this publisher.  I thought I was just lucky finding these good reads.                    

I was reading An Accident in August  by Laurence Cosse and enjoying it when I realized it was a Europa Publication. Then I started paying attention and realized I have never come across a boring one.  According to Wikipedia The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky is the 100th publication of this company.  The company publishes about 20 titles a year.  I have read another title by Alina Bronsky and enjoyed it.  Will read her latest.  My favorite read from last year is an Europa Publication A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Heft by Liz Moore

Review by Maggie:

book jacketArthur Opp is nearly 600 lbs and has not left his Brooklyn brownstone in nearly ten years.  Fortunately for him he owns his home and has a trust fund that enables him to have all the food he wants delivered to his home.  Although he was always misfit he was an academic before becoming a recluse.  He kept up a correspondence with a former student but has not heard from her in years.    Out of the blue he gets a letter and she wants to visit with him----Arthur feels he must warn her about his living conditions (he has not been upstairs in his house in many years climbing stairs is too difficult) but he welcomes the idea of being back in touch.  She has secrets of her own---one being she has a teenage son-----

Soon Arthur has cleaning lady that he develops a friendship with and we then hear of his back story.  In the meantime, the novel alternates between Arthur’s life and the tale of  Kel the teenage son of his former student.  It is easy to like Arthur and I found his sections more interesting than Kel the teenage boy.   It is a very compelling read----one cannot help but like Arthur.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

book jacketReview by Jan:

Every once in a while I will read a book that I think might appeal to literary fiction readers, and so I will post my review on both our popular fiction and literary blogs.  This is the March read for our Not Your Ordinary Book Group.  We do have copies available if you want to become a member, both in book and Nook format.  Please contact us if you are interested.  New members are always welcome.

Now onto my review:
The Woman In Black is a ghost story set in historical England.  At only 164 pages, it is a shorter novel, but beautifully written and well worth a read.  It was first published in the 1980's and is now a major motion picture starring a grown-up Daniel Radcliff. 

The setting is both lovely and eerie. There are no graphic elements in this book, but rather more of an emotional pull toward the character's plight and the mystery surrounding the woman in black. Arthur Kipps, the main character of this story, is a solicitor sent to a small country town to settle the affairs of a deceased client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Arthur becomes increasingly aware that the residents of this country town are keeping secrets about Eel Marsh House, and avoid his questions when asked. When Arthur notices an emaciated woman dressed in black at Alice Drablow's funeral, the residents do not wish to discuss her appearance, or even acknowledge who she might be. Determined to complete his task, Arthur sets out to Alice Drablow's home, Eel Marsh House, a solitary stone structure built on a causeway of marshes; travel is only achievable when the tide is down, leaving Arthur deserted to discover the secrets of the house and the mystery behind the woman in black.

Small spoiler alert: I will say that I truly enjoyed this book, even though I normally prefer a story with a happy ending---even I can step outside my happy-endings-box every once in a while! :o)

The story carries an emotional heaviness made more poignant by the solitary setting. The author's descriptions of the environment are perfect. It almost reminds me of a Hitchcock style story combined with the dialog of a Brontë novel. The suspense and mystery elements are well paced. Toward the middle of the story, however, I became very aware that this mysterious woman in black was not going to find happiness, that there wasn't going to be a benevolent light at the end of a proverbial tunnel for her to float away in peace; I knew the ending would be sad, as it needed to be to justify the burden of fear carried by Arthur Kipps and the other characters of the story.

As always, hope to see you in our library someday soon,

Request The Woman In Black from the Bangor Public Library

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Women by T.C. Boyle

book jacketReview by Maggie:

If you liked Paris Wife you will love The Women by T.C. Boyle.   Boyle takes a look at the scandalous life of Wright through his wives and mistress----he had three wives and Mamah Cheney the woman he left his first marriage for----This book is told through the eyes of a Japanese intern who arrives at Taliesin to apprentice with the master.  In his first week there Wright has the intern peeling potatoes. The author uses the experiences of the women, Kitty his first wife, who even though she bore him six children gets very little attention in the book, Mamah the tragic mistress, Maude an opiate addict and Olga his exotic last wife. . .
Wright lived an unconventional life and his public life was always tied to what was going on in his tempestuous private life.  

This is an excellent read---I liked it much better than Loving Frank by Nancy Horan which came out about the same time.   Wright led such a colorful life driven by his appetites and huge ego and his refusal to conform to societal norms he makes a wonderful subject for novelists especially one as good as Boyle.

Request The Women from The Bangor Public Library

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

book jacketReview by Jan:
I adored Garden Spells by this author and am very pleased to write that I enjoyed The Sugar Queen just as much.
The Sugar Queen is about a young woman named Josey who cares for her overbearing mother.  Josey stores candy in her secret closet and reads romance novels and travel books, dreaming of adventure and leaving the responsibilities of her repressed life behind. Everything changes when a local woman named Della shows up in her closet, hiding from an abusive boyfriend, and teaches Josey how to have the courage to reach for happiness.  Josey's emotional journey from an unhappy recluse to social confidence is as heart-wrenching as it is beautiful, and like Garden Spells, every character is worth remembering.

This is a stand-alone book, not connected to Garden Spells, but with a similar setting in a southern quirky community. Once again, the story is sprinkled with just the right amount of magic to keep it intriguing, and with a unique cast of characters, flawed yet exquisitely penned.  Allen's writing style is simply perfect.  I devoured this book in one evening, and I do hope you give it a try.

Hope to see you in our library someday soon,

Request The Sugar Queen from the Bangor Public Library